When we stayed in Sorrento, our bedroom had a view of Mt. Vesuvius. Every morning when we woke up, Sam would look at it and say “that’ll kill ya.”

Shortly after the fire — our fire — I began to see our house as my personal Pompeii.

Not the actual destruction, though. What was left behind. Walking through Pompeii, I recognized the devastation that took place and marveled at how well preserved some things were and how others were utterly annihilated. These were artifacts left behind of the way people lived before Vesuvius erupted. Some things struck me, but many others were part of a history that I could walk through.

That’s how I saw our house only two or three days after the fire. Looking at most books, most of the art, the furniture, the electronics — they were something I once owned and now were part of a story of a fire. They had become things and were no longer possessions. And I didn’t mourn them.

There were some objects in the soot and ash that made me sad. Some photo albums, printed only from film, were irreparably gone. But the photos that were digital were safe on a hard drive in our fire safe (that included all of our wedding photos). Those can be reprinted. The ornaments on the Christmas tree (we were slow to take it down) are lost for good, and some them have a high sentimental value (the ornaments that Sam painted me can never be replaced). I panicked briefly that our passports hadn’t been put away. Fortunately, they were also safe.

It happened so fast, that separation of possessions into things and artifacts of a life lived. It made it easier to inventory and accept the loss. But it also made it harder when we came across those things that meant something.